There are books that you probably ought to read to establish a basic working knowledge of an area of thought - for example 'how to lie with statistics', or 'the selfish gene', which are both mentioned here - but may be a bit low-brow if you have any sort of expertise in the area. Then there are books which are fundamental texts, but which are a bit too heavy to set as a cultural standard for everyone to be expected to read. Rawls' 'Theory of Justice' for example. Then there are exemplary works of fiction, of which I feel there are just too many to include them all, for example 'Gravity's Rainbow' or 'Love in the time of cholera': one could go on indefinitely.
here are some suggestions:
- the female eunuch, by germaine greer
- the selfish gene, by richard dawkins
- a brief history of time, by stephen hawking
- mythologies, by roland barthes
- neuromancer, by william gibson
- after babel, by george steiner